Thursday, November 4, 2010

I Love Mountains/I Love Coal

Those are actually the 2 political parties in West Virginia. The sad thing is they don't have to be mutually exclusive of each other. There are responsible ways to mine coal that don't have to actually destroy the mountains.

West Virginia needs both the mountains and the mining. Each side needs to recognize the importance of the other. Coal was mined for generations in West Virginia without removing the actual mountain. While it will never be 100% safe it is safer now than ever. When I was a kid I can remember coal miner's dying weekly in and around my hometown. There were also many more jobs in the industry back then.

While mountaintop removal is safer for the worker than underground coal mining there are usually several fatalites every year at the mountaintop sites as well. I think things are finally changing and miners are expected to work safely now - not just go in and work in whatever conditions they find and keep their mouths shut.

For the first time in my memory the EPA shut down a Massey Mine a couple weeks ago due to safety violations. Several supervisors were fired and about a dozen miners suspended for the violations. Now another mountaintop mine in Ky. is being threatened to be shut down for safety violations. I applaud these efforts to keep miners safe.

As long as the sites are reclaimed by the coal companies and they rarely are - usually the US government has to step in and fix the damage after the coal company declares bankruptsy and comes back to do business under another name. This is a practice that needs to be fixed as well.

The problem is when you remove the entire mountain you can't put it back. We now have several sites in southern WV that are bigger than Charleston (our largest city) that are completely flat and ready for development. Unfortunately we don't have the need or the population to develop these sites.

At this point the state can handle the environmental damage but there has to be a point at which the value of the mountains are considered. West Virginia is fast becoming a multibillion dollar tourism destination for the east coast and as the states around us continue to lose their natural assets we still have most of ours. We need to keep our mountains and replace mountaintop removal with more traditional underground methods which will also employ at least twice as many coal miners in the process.

The two pictures at the top show how much land has been lost in the last 15 years due to mountaintop mining. I am trying to get a picture to show the difference from last year to this year but I am having trouble posting it and I am running out of time today.

Here's a link. I can't get a picture to post.,-95.677068&sspn=32.335236,55.458984&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Logan,+West+Virginia&ll=37.836903,-82.054138&spn=0.50324,0.866547&t=h&z=10

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